Lord Malvorian Ikorr sat upon his throne, tapping the ornate wooden arm, while High Wizard Gurgan pled his case. As usual, Malvorian wore the midnight blue robes of Farrowen, secured at the waist with the glittering golden sash of his station. His long, black hair was held in place by the golden headband with a cerulean blue sapphire he had been bestowed a century earlier.
“I promise, my lord, the report is nothing but lies intended to cast doubt toward me.” Gurgan held his hands out, pleading. “My loyalty remains as strong as ever.”
Malvorian watched the man closely. Deep lines around Gurgan’s eyes showed his age, as did his graying brown hair and beard. The man had been High Wizard of Eleighton for over two decades, a brief reign from Malvorian’s perspective. Gurgan also wore a robe in the midnight blue of Farrowen, yet his was secured by a silver sash. A thick, golden bracelet was clamped around the man’s wrist – an adornment Malvorian had never before noticed.
“So, you deny skimming from your mines?” Malvorian’s deep voice boomed in challenge as he leaned forward. “You do not have a secret surplus used to hire your own army?”
The accused wizard glanced toward the soldier standing beside him. Malvorian had never seen the man before, but military men came and went. This one was tall, thin, with dark hair and a sharp face. The soldier gave Gurgan the briefest of nods before the high wizard replied.
“Of course I deny it, my lord. Why would I risk such treason?”
Malvorian stood, his own gaze flicking toward the shadows to the side of his dais. The man there nodded. It was time to see if Vanda’s ability was as he claimed.
“Empty the room!” the wizard lord boomed with authority. He glared at Gurgan. “You are to remain.” The words came out as a growl.
Guards dressed in silver plate armor with midnight blue capes began ushering the wizards, the wizardesses, and the ungifted from the room. It was late, past sunset. Malvorian seldom held court at such an hour, but this was a special occasion. Somehow, word had spread of Gurgan’s arrival – something Malvorian suspected was orchestrated by the accused man, thinking to use a public forum as a shield. Little did he understand.
Gurgan frowned. “May Captain Dandon remain? He is here as a witness and can explain the conspiracy behind this slander.”
Malvorian nodded. “Yes. Of course.” I have nothing to fear from a worm like you.
The throne room doors closed, leaving the wizard lord and the two men standing before the dais alone, the room dark, save for the blue-flamed torches to each side of the throne and the moonlight coming through the high, east-facing window. Malvorian watched Gurgan closely. The wizard seemed unaware of the old man lurking in the shadows.
“Enough pretense, Gurgan,” Malvorian sneered. “We have reports from trusted sources, men who have been recruited to join your private force. Why do it? Even if you built an army, you cannot challenge my power.”
Gurgan laughed. “You don’t know all there is to know, Malvorian.”
“I am a hundred twenty-eight years old, Gurgan, twice your age, yet I appear half of that. Never forget. The power of a god runs through my veins.”
“You have always been arrogant, Malvorian,” Gurgan snarled. “You expect the rest of us to follow you like cattle and never question why. Your position is not as secure as you believe.”
Gurgan extended his arm toward the dais, the power he gathered casting an aura around him. A disk of white magic enveloped his hand as the bracelet began to glow. A thread of magic blasted from Gurgan, encircling Malvorian. Coils of silvery light wrapped about the wizard lord and lifted him off the floor. Malvorian reached for his magic but found resistance, a force wedged between him and the source of his power. He clenched his jaw and bent his will against the shield, applying pressure until it shattered. A rush of magic filled him, the raw energy railing against his defenses – the power of Farrow. He held as much magic as he ever had, the tempest threatening to destroy him. It would not, for the power was his to control.
Gurgan snarled and doubled his efforts, the coiled magic tightening around Malvorian. “You think I am unaware of your long life being fed by Devotion? I know the power derived from prayer.” Gurgan’s eyes filled with a madness. “It will be mine!”
The coils constricted, biting into Malvorian, forcing him to respond or die.
A disk of azure magic spread around Malvorian’s fist, the construct forming into a knife of blue energy that lashed out and sliced through his bonds. Rather than falling to the floor, he shifted constructs and solidified the air beneath him, appearing to hover three feet above the dais.
“You dare defy me?” Malvorian roared.
Gurgan threw both hands out, but Malvorian wove a shield before himself. The wave of pale energy slid past the shield and struck the throne, blasting it to bits. Malvorian laughed.
The high wizard waved his hands, but magic did not flow from them. Instead, a chunk of stone struck Malvorian in the back. His shield faded and he fell to the floor, landing on his hands and knees. His crown hit the dais and rolled off to settle before Gurgan.
Magic lashed out from Gurgan and wrapped about Malvorian’s wrists and ankles, lifting him again.
“Now!” Gurgan shouted. “Do it!”
Dandon, Gurgan’s captain, drew a hidden blade from beneath his breastplate. In one rapid motion, the man cocked his arm back and threw the knife. It buried deep in the right side of Malvorian’s chest, the impact causing him to gasp in pain.
So the vision was true, Malvorian thought. Time to end this charade.
Clenching his fist, Malvorian’s magic constricted around the bracelet on Gurgan’s wrist. The bracelet burst open, tearing Gurgan’s hand to shreds before the bracelet fell to the floor. Gurgan screamed as his magic faltered.
Malvorian strode forward, blue snakes of energy wrapping around Gurgan and the man at his side. With a thought and the twist of his wrist, Malvorian lifted the two men off the floor. Many years ago, when he first learned the constructs of magic, he sometimes wondered at the effort required to perform such a simple task. Since attaining the throne, such things were second nature, each spell fed by the power of a god.
With his next thought, the blade popped out of his chest and clattered to the floor. It was only then he noticed the blackened edge.
The poison struck, causing his body to spasm. Another lurch brought him to his knees. His heart skipped beats, thumped, then paused.
“Not even you can survive black tear poison.” Demented laughter came from Gurgan, the man still suspended in mid-air by coils of magic.
Black tear killed swiftly, leaving mere moments to respond. Malvorian drew on his magic and bent a heat construct against his own blood. It boiled instantly. He then reversed the effect, cooling the blood in a second.
The procedure left his body weak and drenched with sweat, but the poison was gone. A construct of repair, fed by his endless well of magic, healed the hole in his chest. He took a deep breath and rose to his feet.
Gurgan gaped. “How… How is it possible?”
Malvorian shook his head, taking another deep breath. “You know nothing of power, Gurgan. You are a mere mortal, as I once was. When a god raises you to his level, you realize the depth of true power.” He sneered. “Goodbye.”
Clenching his fist, the coils of magic encircling the two men tightened at the waist, cutting through them. The lower halves of their bodies fell to the floor with sickening, wet thuds, the faces upon their suspended upper bodies reflecting shock and horror. Malvorian released his magic and the torsos fell, settling with the men’s eyes bulging. Blood oozed from the dissected bodies – Dandon’s the deep crimson of an ungifted, Gurgan’s sparkling with the metal flakes of someone who possessed talent.
Malvorian looked back at his destroyed throne, shaking his head. “What an annoyance.”
He walked toward the dead men, bent, and picked up Gurgan’s bracelet. On the inside, he noticed the silvery script of an enchantment.
The man hidden in the shadows emerged, the hood of his cloak covering his head, as it always did. “You did well, my lord.”
“This bracelet increased his power. I have never heard of such an enchantment. I wonder where he got it.” Malvorian stared down at the remains of the usurpers. “It was just as your vision foretold.” He turned toward the old man. “How could you know, Vanda? What black magic do you possess?”
“It is not black magic. I was raised by the Seers, my lord.”
Malvorian gasped. “The Witches of Kelmar? That’s even worse.”
“They are simply misunderstood, much like yourself.”
“Nonetheless, you must never mention the Seers while others are nearby. True or not, the legends surrounding the sect inspire fear and loathing. That is a conversation I would rather avoid.”
“Yes, my lord.” Vanda bowed his head. “I will defer to your wisdom regarding your people.”
“It is time for Devotion. I must head up to the tower.” He waved Vanda along. “Come. Join me.”
The pair walked to the lift at the rear of the throne room and stepped on it. Malvorian held his hand against the control panel. Drawing upon his magic, he activated the lift. The crackle of raw energy drove the chains into motion, hoisting the platform.
“As you recall,” Vanda said, “your defeat of the usurper was but the first event in the prophecy I shared with you.”
“I cannot forget.”
Malvorian narrowed his eyes in thought. Imagine my power if I were to extend my rule beyond the borders of Farrowen.
“You must possess the Eye of Obscurance,” Vanda said. “It is the only way to achieve a higher station.”
Malvorian spun toward him in alarm. It is as if he reads my very thoughts.
Vanda chuckled. “Do not worry. I cannot read your thoughts. I am only adhering to the truth of my vision.”
“The teachings of Farrow decry against prophecy, marking it as foul.” Malvorian recalled the scripture, reciting the passage aloud. “‘Beware those who attempt to predict the future, for only by evil means might one see beyond the present.’”
Vanda sighed. “I am aware of the scripture. The Book of Farrow is not the only religious text to proclaim prophecy as evil.”
The platform reached the tall, domed ceiling of the throne room. A thick wall obscured the view for a moment before the lift emerged into the evening air.
The grandeur of Marquithe lay before them, the great city lit by torches and enchanted lanterns.
Vanda gripped the platform rail and gazed at the moon. “I ask you to suspend those beliefs, set your prejudice aside, and consider prophecy in an objective light. In truth, prophecy is nothing more than instruction toward a possible future. Following such guidance greatly increases the odds for a specific outcome. In the end, the future depends solely on the actions of man. What you do will affect it. What you forego, well… That sometimes has an even greater impact.”
Malvorian turned the words over in his head, struggling to find a path beyond a century of belief.
“The vision I shared with you points toward a future where the Lord of Farrowen rises above all others.”
A wall of stone slid past the platform, obscuring the city before opening to reveal a torchlit room. Malvorian stopped the platform and held his arm out.
“It is time for you to depart, Vanda. Have a good evening. I will see you tomorrow.”
“No, you will not. I must leave and will be away by the time you rise.”
“Now? When I am on the cusp of a new future?”
“You have what you need. The plan is in motion. The stars will soon align.”
Malvorian’s concern lessened and he found himself nodding in agreement. “Where will you go?”
“I must return to the Seers and discover what occurs next. Should you succeed with the first portion of the plan, additional guidance is required.”
Vanda walked off the platform, pausing to speak over his shoulder. “Do you ever allow anyone else in the tower?”
“I cannot.” Malvorian placed his hand on the control and the lift resumed its climb. “It is forbidden.”
“Remember, the amulet,” Vanda said. “It is the key.”
“Yes.” Malvorian’s face darkened. “Yet subtlety is required. The Enchanters Guild cannot know I am behind this scheme.”
“Wise words, sire.” Vanda’s bow was the last thing Malvorian saw before the room was obscured from his view and the lift returned to open air.
Gusts of wind ruffled Malvorian’s hair and braided beard. His robes flapped wildly as the wind grew stronger, a common occurrence whenever he neared the upper reaches of the tower. The platform stopped upon reaching the top. Malvorian withdrew his magic, lifted the gate, and stepped into the tower’s uppermost room.
Pillars supported the domed roof, and a throne of crystal, surrounded by a circle of fire that forever burned, sat at the middle. In the back of the throne was a massive sapphire with eight perfect facets, the octagram seated in the crystal. There were no walls, so the wind carried through the space unabated. The magic, Farrow’s magic, fed the flames and made them immune to the wind, rain, or anything else. During his century of nightly visits to the tower, Malvorian had never seen the flames dim. He had, however, seen them blaze brightly.
The wizard lord passed through the ring of fire, but neither he nor his clothing were burned. In fact, the magical flames gave off no heat at all. The throne, his true throne, beckoned. He succumbed to its will. Sitting on the Throne of Farrow, he gripped the arms, leaned back, and embraced the source of magic, his heart and soul connecting with the gem pressed against his back. Power flowed through him, the throne flaring bright blue. The flames erupted like an azure inferno, and the bell in the dome above him began to peal. Beams of blue light shot out from the tower, connecting the flame to obelisks in each of Farrowen’s major cities, lighting them brightly.
Devotion began – prayers from the citizens across the wizardom Malvorian governed. The power of those prayers flowed into the wizard lord, the rapture consuming him as the world fell away.